COVID-19: WHO Names New Strain, Omicron
NAN reports that the health body also labelled it a variant of concern due to its large number of mutations and possible faster rate of infection.
WHO, in a statement on Friday, said there is an increased risk of reinfection with this variant of concern compared to other strains, such as Delta.
It explained that ‘Omicron has been detected at faster rates than in previous surges in infection, suggesting that it “may have a growth advantage”.
Experts have also asked countries to enhance surveillance and genome sequencing efforts to better understand the variant.
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead also stated that the information about the now ‘Omicron’ variant is still limited and there are fewer than 100 whole-genome sequences that are available.
“What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations, and the concern is that when you have so many mutations it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” she said.
Kerkhove explained that researchers are currently trying to determine where the mutations are and what they potentially mean for diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.
“It will take a few weeks for us to understand what impact this variant has, there’s a lot of work that is underway,” she added.
The UN health agency, therefore, advised countries to adopt a risk-based and scientific approach to travel bans linked to the new variant identified in South Africa and Botswana.
Kerkhove thanked researchers from these countries for openly sharing information with the UN health agency.